Archive for Bessey clamps

Our Brief History of Woodworking Clamps

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2014 by johnwiggers

Moving into our new furniture making studio last year allowed us to gather together all of our woodworking clamps in one place at one time; probably for the first time in decades.

image

The process of doing this was eye opening, to say the least. For one thing I was a little taken aback at how many clamps we actually own. We ended up covering one entire wall with a wide assortment of woodworking clamps, and we have unofficially dubbed it ‘The Great Wall of Clampage’.

image

Over the years a few different brands of clamps have graced our benches. Amongst my favourites are the Jorgensen handscrews, even though these rarely get used except for a few specialty applications.

On a day to day basis we use mostly F-clamps in our shop, and without question the ones that have endured best over the years have all been made in Germany.

image

image

Timage

Our oldest clamps are ones that my father brought over with him from Holland, and they are now over a half century old. Their brand names are Bessey, Diepaca and Richa.

Woodworking clamps get heavily used and abused in our shop, and even though the Diepacas and Richas have each given us many decades of good service each of these of these brands has eventually worn out. In both of the examples shown above the steel eventually bent and the clamps lost their ability to function.

There is little question that Bessey has made the best preforming clamps in our shop. As old clamps either broke or wore out we ended up buying Bessey to replace them. The net result has been that the vast majority of woodworking clamps in our shop today are now heavy duty Bessey Tradesmans.

In all the years that I have used these clamps I have never seen them fail. In fact, I cannot recall a wood handle ever breaking on a Bessey either.

There is a saying amongst woodworkers that you can never have enough clamps. That saying is very true because even the simplest of projects will often require more clamps than you think you need, which invariably means that you will need more clamps than you actually have.

image

On the console shown above somebody once told me that it would have been quicker to use cauls (and fewer clamps) because the clamping would have gone faster. I have always believed that the fastest (and best) way to do any job is to do it right the first time, and doing it right means having proper pressure along the entire glue joint.

There is no such thing as having too many Besseys.

image

Incidentally, while looking for information on the history of Bessey clamps I came across a cool blog post showing excellent examples of vintage clamps. The link is here.

Some colleagues have also told me good things about a brand of American made clamps called Wetzler. I cannot comment on these because I have never used them and, unfortunately, it seems that Wetzler is no longer in business.

Advertisements

The New Studio

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by johnwiggers

It has been almost a year since we moved out of our old facility to set up shop in our new studio. The previous post tells some of this story.

There is no question that a tremendous amount of work goes into moving a woodworking shop such as this, because the effort involves not only the transport of many tons of heavy machinery but also the moving and storage of tens of thousands of square feet of wood.

Some significant preparation had be done, ranging from 3-phase electrical work to pouring reinforced slabs to take the weight of some of the heaviest machines.

image

image

A copper penny from 1967 was embedded into this concrete slab, because that is the year our family business was established. The thirteens in the date are a lucky coincidence, because 13 is a lucky number.

image

The process of growing our shop smaller also compelled us to come to terms with almost 50 years worth of paperwork and old records that were stored away in a 40′ container. I personally spent several weeks sorting through box after box of documents to determine what could be shredded and what was worth keeping.

Old job cards, drawings and related project information we decided to keep because, quite frankly, I enjoy having a historical record of all the custom work we have done over the years.

Some long forgotten bits of family history also surfaced in the course of doing this purge, and I was especially surprised to find the original copy of my father’s cabinetmaker’s certificate from when he graduated trade school in Holland.

At one end of the studio we set up our Casati veneer guillotine and Italpresse hot press.

image

This SCM sliding table saw has always been a work horse in our shop. The precision of this machine remains phenomenal, even after many decades of use.

image

Smaller machines such as this 900 lb. vintage Poitras bandsaw were mounted on heavy duty Shop Fox bases, to make them mobile and, thereby, more versatile.

image

Kevin’s bench is set up in a brightly lit corner, and a ‘Great Wall of Clampage’ has been created along one side. Although Bessey clamps have always been used predominantly in our shop, I truly had no idea how many we owned until they were all gathered together in one spot.

image

My own bench is surrounded by windows on two sides, with additional light coming from a large skylight located above.

image

My built-in desk from the old shop was reconfigured to fit the new space. The desk is made from Narra, and this wood actually comes from some of the very first trees to be sustainably harvested on the Solomon Islands in the 1990s. (The FSC was doing a beta test of its standards there at the time).

image

Fitted into the credenza behind my desk is customized storage for my collection of Fine Woodworking magazines.

image

The left side of this bookcase is actually a secret door that provides access to the hardware room located beyond. Of course, now that I’ve blogged about it the door isn’t much of a secret any more.

image

A narrow annex located on the far side of the building was converted into a dedicated area for wood turning and tool sharpening. Our vintage (pre Delta) Rockwell lathe seems right at home here, and it seems to bask in the glow of the light from the massive window.

image

We were recently asked if moving into this smaller studio has meant giving up some of our ability to do complex and finely detailed work. My reply was that the only thing that has changed is the physical size of our shop. During the planning stages of our move we made it our priority to ensure that our reputation for doing fine quality work was not going to be compromised.

To illustrate this point, the photo below is of a custom dining table that was delivered from our studio a few months ago. The top is polished Macassar Ebony, and it was made in one piece to a length of approximately 144″ long. The inlays are a combination of brushed and polished stainless steel.


image